When Marvel first introduced Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, it was clear that this character would be a unique addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In an otherwise lacklustre entry into the MCU, Chadwick Boseman was a shining light, and it was clear he needed a solo film. Black Panther gave MCU fans a deep dive into a character that has stood the test of time and made us miss Boseman all the more.
Many have written about the legacy of Chadwick Boseman. His work is a living testament to a man gone far before his time. However, his role in Black Panther, King T’Challa, will go down as one of his most impactful. Although the impact of having a Black superhero on an entire community is outside of the scope of this white writer, it’s clear that Black Panther has made its impact not only on The MCU but far beyond. There was no one more well-suited for this task than Boseman. Boseman played this role to perfection, being perfectly imperfect and yet utterly relatable as a man who was always striving to do the right thing.
The ensemble cast of Black Panther is among the strongest in the MCU. Black Panther is an achievement in a franchise that prides itself on its team-ups. One could write an entire piece on the phenomenon that is Angela Bassett, bringing her signature brilliance to the role of the Queen Mother. So many stories regulate a Queen Mother character to an assistant to the King or simply guardian of her children. In Bassett’s capable hands, this is a character who shines in her own right in every scene and has a tangible impact on her nation and family’s fate.
Lupita Nyong’o is luminous in Black Panther, and the only disappointment we can say is that we didn’t see more of this character through the movie. She is captivating in every scene, and her performance left us wanting to see so much more of her. In addition, Black Panther introduced us to Okoye (Danai Gurira), and honestly, we all need a friend who has our backs as much as she does. Finally, although Shuri was a phenomenal character, Letitia Wright has disappointed so many fans with her anti-vaccine views.
Get Out introduced us to Daniel Kaluuya, and honestly, we’ve never looked back. Since his performance as W’Kabi in this movie, we’ve also got to see him in great projects, including Judas and the Black Messiah. Finally, Winston Duke struck the perfect chord as M’Baku, bringing in a comedic timing that ranks among Marvel’s best.
The story itself in Black Panther is a compelling one. Black Panther is incredibly multi-layered, an achievement for a franchise that has perfected all of the superhero movie tropes. First, it’s a meditation on grief and loss, a message made more poignant since Boseman’s passing. The reconciliation between the version of the person we knew versus their authentic humanity is a struggle we will all face in our lives. Black Panther was also a political commentary about the role nations play in the world and the arguments for and against isolationist policies. This may have been a tall order for a simple Marvel movie, yet they addressed these issues in accessible ways for what the story was.
Finally, Black Panther had one of the best yet most disappointing villains in the franchise to date. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is more of an antihero than a villain. His methods are vile, yet his reasoning makes sense to a point. We can sympathize with his plight to bring about the justice denied him all his life. Sadly, Killmonger joined the ranks of some of the most promising Marvel villains that were dispatched far too soon before we got to know them.
Black Panther combined the best of what fans love about the MCU with a standalone story that was a cut above. It holds up on the re-watch. Even with its flaws, it’s a story that continues to resonate. The use of the fictional Wakanda as a direct rebuke to colonial, racist portrayals of Africa was incredibly effective. Even though tragically, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will not feature the late Boseman, we will hopefully get a chance to revisit this land and these characters that made such an impact.
Black Panther is available to stream on Disney+.